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About Doctrines

Adoption

John 1:12
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of Godó
NIV

Scripture presents this sonship as an adoption. To understand the true meaning of this term we must look back at Roman law, for adoption was aimed, not at little children, but at grown men. The idea of adoption under Roman law was that a young man took the place of a true son, not just as a family member but for purposes of inheritance. Under the Roman law, once you were adopted into the family, you could not be disinherited. Thus, adoption was a much stronger legal concept in the Rome of Paul's time than in America of our time.

So adoption is the process of entering into the rights and obligations of another family. The term adoption does not appear in the Old Testament and it does not appear that the Jewish nation practiced adoption. On the other hand, God declared to the nation that He was their Father and the nation was God's son, so the analogy to the adoption language of the New Testament is present in the Jewish Scriptures (Isa 1:2; Hosea 11:1; Exod 4:22; Ps 2:7).

Only Paul uses the Greek word for adoption. It properly means, "to place as a son." This is the point of v14. Justification by faith has placed the believer as a son into the family of God. This is the "Spirit of adoption," indicating this placing is another work of the Holy Spirit in the conversion experience. We need to remember that while we speak or describe all of these different states or conditions that occur at conversion, our salvation is a single event that includes a variety of new conditions. Being adopted is but another way of stating the high standing of one who is justified. We are told that God determined our adoption from before time began.

Ephesians 1:5
having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will

Paul tell us in Galatians that Jesus came to earth as a human so we could become children of God. "4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Gal 4:4-5). Paul repeats the adoption concept in the next verse as he spells out for us what a great and marvelous benefit this sonship maintains for those who are redeemed.

Galatians 4:6-7
6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

These verses from Galatians set forth the same concepts as the Romans verses. God has sent forth the Holy Spirit to indwell the believer. This makes the believer a son now, where before he was a slave to sin. In both sets of verses, one of the net results is that we can cry to God "Father, Father." In Romans, Paul will also speak to the idea of heirship (8:12). So, as we can see, the Apostle's presentations of the adoption concept run parallel in Romans and Galatians.

We must remember that the concept of calling upon God as our Father parallels many concepts presented in the Old Testament between God and Israel. In fact, Paul uses the term "adoption" with regard to Israel in 9:4. But, the idea is also presented for us in the New Testament by none less than Jesus Himself. As part of the Sermon on the Mount, the disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. The opening words of the model prayer offered for their instruction calls upon God as Father.

Matthew 6:9
In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.

And, we must also remember that the Holy Trinity has chosen the Father / Son language to describe the First and Second Persons of the Trinity. Jesus frequently calls upon the First Person of the Trinity as "Father." And, God refers to Jesus as "My Son" (i.e. Matt 3:17; 17:5).

While we are clearly not God, the idea of sonship places us on a similar level with Jesus in terms of our relationship to God. We are sons, in a pattern similar to Jesus. Paul will approach this idea in the next couple of verses of Romans, so we anticipate part of that discussion here. But, the idea of being like Jesus is not confined to Paul. John writes, "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John 3:2). What a blessed promise for the future. Because we are sons of God, we shall be like Jesus Christ!

Again, I need to emphasize this does not mean we will become Gods. Such a teaching is foreign to the Bible and belongs solely to the cults. Rather, the idea is that our glorification will be complete. We will be holy beings. We will truly be like our Father, God.

Our salvation has brought us a different Spirit, the Spirit of adoption. We no longer need to fear because we are children of the King! Paul writes to Timothy, "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Tim 1:7). We certainly may not act like we possess love, power, and a sound mind, but these are all the benefits of being renewed by the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:12
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.

Scriptures taken from the NKJV.

 

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